Advertising Photography: Career and Salary Facts

Advertising photographers need technical skills to take great pictures, as well as an eye for intriguing images. Read on to learn about the job duties in this photography specialty and what it takes to start working in the field. Check the salary potential and career outlook for advertising photographers. Schools offering Photography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is Advertising Photography?

Advertising photography is a specialized branch of the commercial photography industry. When you work as a commercial photographer, you provide images to go along with editorial content in magazines, books, calendars, websites and other forms of media. As an advertising photographer, you are specifically tasked with taking eye-catching photographs that appear in promotional ads in print publications, on commercials and billboards or through direct marketing campaigns. You can find out some key details about this career below:

Degree Required No degree required, but training through certificate or degree programs may be helpful
Education Field of Study Photography
Key Responsibilities Take photos of products and services, work closely with clients
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -6% (decline)
Median Salary (2015)* $34,000

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Advertising Photographer Do?

As an advertising photographer, you might offer freelance services in one or more industries or you could find a full-time position within an advertising agency or design firm. You might be tasked with taking photographs that help to sell a particular product, good or service. Your subject matter might contain people, prepared foods, action scenes or natural settings. You'd often collaborate with clients, models and advertising directors.

What Education and Training Would I Need?

If you're interested in a position as a photographer within an advertising company, formal education could get you an interview, but talent and experience are necessary to land the job. Degree, certificate and vocational programs provide you with instruction on the use of different types of cameras, including film, digital and industrial equipment. You'll learn the techniques and processes involved in taking artistic and commercial photographs, including studio and natural lighting and composition, as well as topics in color theory, design, space and media. Many programs train you to use photo manipulation software and instruct you in the basic tenets of graphic design. Within these programs, you'll work on building your portfolio for use in finding postgraduate employment.

How Might I Find a Job in the Field?

Some universities offer career services that can place you in intern positions during the course of a degree program or assist you with finding a job after graduation. You might choose to bypass a formal postsecondary education altogether and start out in the field by becoming an assistant or intern to a professional photographer. By completing such an experience, you not only learn how to use camera equipment, but you also gain an understanding of the photography industry. This route could take longer to learn the intricacies of equipment and photography methods.

If you become an assistant to a freelance advertising photographer, you'll likely learn how to book assignments, work with clients and set up professional photography shoots. You can use the experience to develop contacts in the industry that can help you when it comes time to launch your own freelance career.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't specify salary data related to the niche of advertising photography. However, it did report that professional photographers earned a median salary of $34,000 in 2018 ( The BLS stated that photographers who worked on staff made a higher annual income than freelancers, who usually had to provide and maintain their own equipment. According to a breakdown of BLS data by industry, photographers working in television, newspaper and publishing companies earned over $49,000, those employed by travel arrangement and reservation services made over $60,000 and professionals in the filmmaking industry took home over $64,000 in 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Desktop publishers are related positions that require an associate's degree. These professionals use computers to create the layouts of various types of publications. Fashion and graphic designers are also related careers, but require bachelor's degrees. Fashion designers create designs and choose materials for clothing and accessories. Graphic designers develop the visual images for things like magazines, advertisements and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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